Bubble Banter: Baylor is still in the bubble picture, believe it or not

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There are 31 days left until Selection Sunday. Every morning from now until the bracket comes out, we’ll help you get caught up on the happenings with impact on the bubble from the night before. 

You can see NBCSports.com’s latest bracket here.

This is how you know when we’re starting to get close to bubble season: Baylor (RPI: 58, KenPom: 55) knocks off TCU on the road, and we talk about it like it’s actually a big deal.

Because it actually kind of is.

I know that Baylor entered Wednesday having lost seven of their last eight games. I get that they’re currently sitting at 3-8 in the Big 12 after beating the Horned Frogs. I agree with anyone that wants to say that the Bears are one of the most disappointing teams in the country. But that doesn’t change the fact that a team with a top ten strength of schedule has wins over Colorado, Kentucky and Oklahoma State and that they all came away from Waco.

The Bears are still very much in the thick of the bubble race. They have good wins, they only have one bad loss, and they have five more games against top 40 teams. They need to start winning, obviously, but all is not yet lost.

It might have been if they lost to TCU.

But they didn’t.

Which means that Baylor’s bubble has survived another day.

THE REST OF WEDNESDAY’S BUBBLE ACTION

  • Indiana (RPI: 74, KenPom: 61) blew a big lead against Penn State. They’ve now beaten Michigan and Wisconsin at home, where they’ve also lost to Northwestern and now the Nittany Lions. With a non-conference resume that’s highlighted by a win over Washington (yuck), the Hoosiers are in some trouble.
  • George Washington (RPI: 27, KenPom: 37) lost VCU (RPI: 28, KenPom: 24), which inches the Colonials a bit closer to the bubble But a road loss at a league favorite isn’t exactly a bad thing. GW is still in a good position.
  • LSU (RPI: 59, KenPom: 68) lost to their fourth team outside the top 100 on Wednesday. Wins over Kentucky, Missouri and St. Joseph’s don’t make up for that. The Tigers might need to sneak an upset at Kentucky or at Florida.
  • Stanford (RPI: 42, KenPom: 34) actually has a better profile than I originally thought. The Cardinal have four top 50 wins, three of which came on the road. They’ve only lost two games to teams outside the top 50 — one of them on Wednesday against Washington — but both of those were on the road to teams with an RPI in the 80s. They can’t afford to drop a game to the likes of USC or Wazzu, but this team is in decent shape.
  • Richmond (RPI: 44, KenPom: 63) beat Duquesne, which means they’re still hanging tough despite the fact that they are missing two key players in Derrick Williams and Cedrick Lindsay.
  • Dayton (RPI: 57, KenPom: 56) has beaten Gonzaga, Cal and George Washington. They’ve lost to USC, Rhode Island and Illinois State. That’s the kind of schizophrenic nonsense these bubble resumes are made up of. At least they got their revenge on URI on Wednesday.
  • Cal (RPI: 50, KenPom: 45) didn’t lose to Washington State. That’s the good news. The bad? They got taken to overtime by the worst team in the conference, which means that the issues they’ve dealt with the last couple of weeks aren’t quite figured out. If it wasn’t for that Justin Cobbs jumper to beat Arizona, they’d be in some serious trouble.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.